Skip to main content

Trucker Shortage Driving Up Prices

We rely on truck drivers to supply us with everything from the gas for our cars to the food for our tables. But while the demand for drivers is growing, the supply is not. That has led to higher prices for consumers -- and a concerted effort within the industry to attract and retain new workers.

"The demand for truckload services is at a seasonally adjusted all-time high," says Mike Norder. He is the spokesperson for a trucking firm in North Carolina.

"In addition to this demand for truckload service, jobs in competing fields for truck drivers have become much more plentiful."

As the economy improves, more goods are sold. And these goods must be shipped from manufacturers to distribution points to end-use locations, says Roger Herman. He studies the workforce.

Truckers are also picking up some of the load that airlines used to carry. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the subsequent tightening of airport security and the tight economy have worked together to reduce the number of airline flights.

"With fewer planes in the air, there is less space for packages to be shipped by air freight," Herman says. "Since rail service is less reliable in dependable scheduling, trucking is the logical alternative."

But the industry is having trouble meeting the growing demand.

"There has been a shortage of truck drivers for some time. This is a continuing problem," says Herman.

Many truck drivers leave the field after a short time. Lifestyle conditions are often the reason.

"Drivers often must be away from home for a number of days or even weeks, and drivers with families do not like these conditions," Herman says.

Even with all of the radio communication and camaraderie at truck stops, the truck driving life can be a lonely and dangerous existence, Herman says.

"The work can be stressful, with the challenge of dangerous roads -- many in serious need of repair -- and other drivers," Herman says. "There are potential hazards in every mile of travel, from highway conditions to weather to mechanical difficulties."

At times, pay, benefits and incentives do not meet the truck drivers' needs and expectations. In some companies, selection and training is insufficient.

Many individuals who want to be in the trucking field find it impossible if they are the sole provider for their family, says Larry Daniel. He is president of America's Independent Truckers Association.

"Many insurance companies exclude truckers, as they exclude skydivers -- they will just not insure them," Daniel says.

Experts agree that the increasing costs of trucking are often felt by consumers.

"The cost of transportation has been on the rise for the shipping community," Norder says. "It's a logical conclusion that the marketplace will need to pick up the additional cost."

If it costs a trucking company more to attract, train, support and retain drivers, these costs are passed along to the customer, Herman says.

"If there are not enough drivers employed by companies that charge lower rates, the shippers have no choice to maintain inventories and to use transportation companies with higher rates," Herman says. "This increases costs, which are often passed along to consumers."

Many trucking companies are striving to improve their employees' working life in order to attract and to retain drivers.

"Companies can work on reducing their driver turnover now by responding to the requests being made by drivers, and they are not all about money," says Linda Gauthier. She works for a trucking council.

"Respect, recognition and communication will make a difference. Changing some operational practices so that drivers are not away from home for weeks at a time will also make a difference."

Norder says his company's turnover percentage is about half of the industry average due to the company's commitment to improve driving careers. The company has offered significant pay increases and sign-on bonuses.

"A lot of work has been done in the area of identifying opportunities for drivers to get home more frequently," Norder says.

In one successful division program, drivers haul freight primarily for one dedicated customer. This provides familiar pickup and delivery locations, as well as predictable routes, work schedules and time at home.

Do you have what it takes to make it on the road?

"Operating a big rig is not as easy as it looks," Herman says. "There is a considerable amount that a driver has to learn about handling a truck on the road, laws that vary from state to state, maintenance and safety issues, record keeping and management, geography, and the rules and regulations of pickup and delivery."

Drivers must pass the examinations for a commercial driver's license, which are much more rigorous than the qualifications for drivers of non-commercial vehicles, Herman says. In addition to formal training, drivers learn a lot on the job, usually traveling with a driver-trainer sitting beside them for days.

"Get some real life experience and then make a decision," Daniel says. "I know of no other profession that offers the freedom and self control of trucking, but it also demands discipline."


America's Independent Truckers' Association
The AITA offers news, resources and links

Trucking Jobs
Check out the list of opportunities

The Trucker
Read the latest news

Back to Career Cluster


  • Email Support

  • 1-800-GO-TO-XAP (1-800-468-6927)
    From outside the U.S., please call +1 (424) 750-3900


Powered by XAP

OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.